Southern California environment news and trends

Trout, salmon threatened by water shortages in California wine country

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Generally, wine and fish can be paired quite nicely. In California wine country, however, the relationship between the two has not been so harmonious. New research has found a correlation between markedly higher death rates in steelhead trout with lowered summer water levels and the amount of vineyard acreage upstream.

The study, conducted by biologists at UC Berkeley, discovered that the fish are especially vulnerable during the drier months of summer. They found only 30 percent of the juvenile trout present in June survived to see the end of the season. The number of surviving fish increases in years with more rainfall and in watersheds with less vineyard activity.

"Nearly all of California's salmon and trout populations are on the path to extinction and if we're going to bring these fish back to healthy levels, we have to change the way we manage our water," said Theodore Grantham, lead author of the study in Science Daily. "Water withdrawals for agricultural uses can reduce or eliminate the limited amount of habitat available to sustain these cold-water fish through the summer. I don't suggest we get rid of vineyards, but we do need to focus our attention on water management strategies that reduce summer water use. I believe we can protect flows for fish and still have our glass of wine."


Toxic discharge in California waterways measured

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An eye-opening new study by Environment California finds that 2.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the state’s waterways in 2010. The Santa Monica Bay ranked 2nd in the state for the most toxic discharge at 750,000 pounds. That number was only surpassed by the San Pablo Bay, which clocked just over 1 million pounds of toxic discharge.

“California’s waterways are a polluter’s paradise right now," said Sean Carroll, a federal field associate with Environment California in the Pacific Palisades Patch. "Polluters dump 2.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals into California’s lakes, rivers and streams every year. We must turn the tide of toxic pollution by restoring Clean Water Act protections to our waterways.”

Among the offending toxins include Arsenic, Mercury and Benzene, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive disorders and other health and developmental issues.


New report on the state of California water due this week

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Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

The waters of California are swirling. As we reported recently, the controversial Water Reliability Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but heavy-hitting senators like Dianne Fienstein and Barbara Boxer are mobilized against it going any further. We also reported on the sobering new report from UC Davis regarding water contamination in California’s farm regions.

Now there’s a new report from Environment California expected tomorrow (which, coincidentally, is World Water Day) that will detail exactly the “total amount of toxic chemicals released by industrial facilities into California’s rivers, lakes, and streams, as ranked by waterway, watershed, type of pollution, polluter, and state.”

As outlined in a press release, this new report will explain the “total figures for direct releases of chemicals that cause cancer, reproductive, and developmental harm.” In short, it’s something that most of us will be eager to see. We will be sure to bring you those figures as they arrive.


Water contamination plagues California farm regions

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Mychele Daniau/AFP/Getty Images

A sobering new UC Davis study reports that nitrate contamination is prevalent in California’s Central Valley and neighboring areas like Salinas, with the problem likely to get worse in the years and even decades to come.

According to Epoch Times, as much as 10 percent of the people living in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valleys are drinking water contaminated with nitrates, with the potential of four out of five area residents dealing with the physical and financial fallout over the next 40 years. The contamination is primarily a result of fertilizers and animal waste from the bustling agricultural activity throughout the region.

As reported by MSNBC, increased nitrate levels have been connected to a series of health issues including cancer, skin rashes and “blue baby syndrome,” a blood disease that can lead to infant death.


“Fix A Leak Week” is coming to California

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It’s time to tighten up, California. Your faucets, that is. The Environmental Protection Agency and California American Water are teaming up to remind state residents simple yet effective ways to conserve water (and save money) with “Fix A Leak Week,” to be observed March 12-18.

“A leaky faucet or sprinkler may not seem like a big deal to the individual resident,” California American Water Northern Division General Manager Andy Soule said in a Yahoo! Finance report. “But when you take your leaky faucet and add it with your neighbor’s leaky showerhead and his neighbor’s leaky toilet and so on, you’re talking about an enormous amount of water being wasted on a national level.”

According to the EPA, that adds up to more than a trillion gallons of water wasted annually across America, which breaks down to about 11,000 per residence.